Let's review the good, the bad and the ugly from Friday night's 23-10 preseason loss by the New York Giants to the Cincinnati Bengals. We do that, of course, in our traditional 'Kudos & Wet Willies' style. So, here we go.
'Kudos' to ...
Bennett Jackson -- While teammates in the secondary were dropping like flies, Jackson survived his 36 snaps apparently unscathed. 'Kudos' just for that. Seriously, though, Jackson played well. The Giants appear to have determined that they can use Jackson in an Antrel Rolle-like style, playing safety in their base defense and dropping him into the slot in their nickel package. Jackson had a nice night. He had six tackles, showed some closing speed and aggression, and did not appear to make any major gaffes. It was a good first game for the converted corner.
Kerry Wynn -- He is first team on the Giants' unofficial depth chart, and he played like it Friday. The most impressive thing about Wynn is the amount of effort he plays with, which is part of why he tied Jackson for the team lead with six tackles.
Orleans Darkwa -- Yours truly left Darkwa off the 53-man roster in my latest projection. Darkwa must have read that. Then he watched undrafted free agent running back Akeem Hunt return a kickoff 70 yards. Then he went to work. Darkwa ran nine times for 52 yards and a touchdown. He had a 20-yard run, and added a nice blitz pickup.
Akeem Hunt -- As mentioned above, Hunt got everyone's attention with an outstanding 70-yard kickoff return. He added three carries for eight yards. Maybe there is a nice little competition developing between Darkwa and Hunt.
Uani Unga -- All I know is while I was watching the broadcast, Unga's name kept being called. He got into the backfield to harass quarterbacks, he made stops on run plays, got into passing lanes. He played the way a linebacker is supposed to play. He had three tackles and a pass defensed in 36 snaps.
Trevin Wade -- Wade has had a good training camp, and the rash of injuries suffered in the secondary Friday night gave him an added opportunity to showcase his skills as he bids for a roster spot. He did just that. Wade was beaten on a 42-yard pass play when he appeared to get his feet tangled up, but otherwise had an excellent night. He had an interception and three passes defensed.
Punt coverage team -- Five punt returns by the Bengals, 12 yards. That is 2.4 yards per return. And that is nice work.
'Wet Willies' to ...
Offensive line -- Yikes! The fear with the Giants is that the offensive line won't be good enough to allow the Giants to utilize all their play-makers properly. That's what happened Friday night. It took four series for the Giants to generate a first down. There were no running lanes. There was no time for Eli Manning. It is easy to single out right tackle Marshall Newhouse, but the line as a whole wasn't good. Head coach Tom Coughlin said the Giants have to "make some decisions" about the line. Boy, do they ever!
First-team defense -- This is all about the first drive of the game. The Bengals walked through the Giants' defense on that drive like they weren't even there. No run defense. An inability to cover the pass across the middle. A blown coverage on the Cincinnati touchdown. No reason for panic at this point, but it's obvious Steve Spagnuolo's group is a work in progress.
Injury Gods -- Four players injured on Friday? All members of the secondary? Really? C'mon, already!
Markus Kuhn -- So, the Giants are placing a heavy emphasis on improving their run defense, last in the league a season ago in yards per carry allowed. Kuhn added bulk in the offseason, up to 320 pounds, in an effort to improve in that area. One the second Cincinnati offensive play, Kuhn basically got driven back to New Jersey by a Bengals blocker as Jeremy Hill ran right through the middle for 10 yards. Kuhn hasn't been an answer for the Giants for three seasons. That play doesn't give much hope he will be an answer in his fourth.
Let's not go bridge-jumping after one preseason game against a good football team that has made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. As Chris pointed out in his assessment of the defense, Friday night gives the Giants a "baseline" to determine where they are and what they need to do. Let's also remember that Victor Cruz, Geoff Schwartz and Prince Amukamara did not play.
"We've got a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but we certainly head into this week knowing full well that things have been put into perspective for us," Coughlin said after the game. "It's no longer wondering how you're going to play."
These games are not about the results on the scoreboard. They are about assessing what you have, what you need and trying to get better each week leading up to the regular season.
Defensively, perhaps the Giants got some answers Friday night about players who can and cannot help them. Offensively, they got confirmation that configuring a functional offensive line is still a puzzle they haven't solved.
Let's just see where they go from here. That is what will be important.